VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – In a major change of policy, the BC Liberals will pledge to ban corporate and union donations this week in the speech from the throne.
The NDP and Greens have been calling for changes on this front for years. The NDP in particular has failed six times in trying to convince the Liberals to pass legislation to reform political contribution rules.
But after an election that didn’t go to plan, the Liberal party is changing its tune.
“We had the chance to listen to a lot of people throughout British Columbia during the election campaign, and there’s a fairly widespread sentiment that it’s time to get unions and corporations out of the business of funding political parties, and so now is the time to bring it out,” says Vancouver-Quilchena Andrew Wilkinson.
“The throne speech is where the direction of our government is stated and it’s the perfect opportunity to get this going, and to call upon the other parties to support it.”
It’s all a bit cynical in the view of NDP house leader Mike Farnworth.
“It’s more than an about face,” says Farnworth. “I’d call it an in-the-coffin conversion. This is a government that knows it’s going to lose a confidence vote in just over a week, and they’re desperately trying to say that they’ve changed.”
As for whether it will be a challenge for the NDP to vote against a throne speech proposing some policies it has championed, Farnworth says there’s no change of plan for his party.
“We have been consistent in our platform, we’ve been consistent in wanting to ban union and corporate and union donations,” says Farnworth. “If this government was really serious about doing it, they would have done it long before now, not having a deathbed, in-the-coffin conversion because all of a sudden they can see that they’re going to lose power.”
The BC Greens aren’t moved by this switch either.
“It’s a little hard to take when this is the party that’s been raising millions of dollars from corporate donations since the election, to suddenly be saying that they’re prepared to ban corporate and union donations,” says Green MLA Sonia Furstenau.
“It comes down to a matter of trust. People of BC are going to judge what politicans do, not what they say. What this government has done is resist banning corporate and union donations for decades and, at the same time, the BC Greens came out, and we banned corporate and union donations of our own accord.”
Something else being promised in the throne speech is a long-awaited hike to welfare rates. Social Development Minister Michelle Stilwell says the government wants to raise rates after freezing them for more than a decade, although she wouldn’t release any financial details.
Stilwell did not dispute reports of a $100-per-month increase being planned to take effect either this September or in January.
A single person on welfare in BC currently receives $610 per month.